Lots of summer festivals in Japan are crowded and hot, but here’s one where you can remove the summer heat and enjoy the festivities in the cool, comfortable weather of a mountain highland. On August 10th, the 44th Annual Iizuna Fire Festival will be held at Daiza-Hoshi-ike (pond), in Iizuna Kogen.
The festival begins at 5pm, and includes omikoshi (portable shrine), a giant bonfire over the water of the pond and a nice fireworks show. Among the fireworks is a Niagara display across the length of the pond itself.
Getting up to Iizuna Kogen is a bit of an adventure. You can take any of the public buses that run up to Togakushi from Nagano Station. Just get off at Daiza-Hoshi-ike and you’ll be right smack in the middle of the party.
If you choose to drive up, you can take either the Nana-magari road, behind Zenkoji, followed by the Togakushi Birdline all the way up. It is about a 25-minute drive up from Zenkoji. When you see the pond on the left side of the road, you’ll know you are there. An alternative route is the Asakawa Loop Line road, a newer course built for the 1998 Olympics. That road starts in Uematsu and ends at the Iizuna Kogen Ski Area, to the north of Daiza-Hoshi-Ike.
Parking is available in the vicinity of the Iizuna Kogen Ski Area, north of the pond. There is also a parking lot at Ichi-no-tori-en, across the street from the Nagano Country Club. Shuttle buses will take you to the pond from each of these parking areas. There is a 200 yen charge per person for the shuttle bus. Two more parking areas are a bit closer by, in the area of the fire station, but they do not have shuttle bus service.
Come on up and enjoy the show — and the cool weather!
Details on schedules, maps and other information can be viewed at the Iizuna Kogen Tourism Association’s website here (Japanese only).